Ecotoxicology of Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Fish-A Critical Review


T. B. Henry


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are widespread persistent anthropogenic contaminants that can accumulate in tissues of fish. The toxicity of PCBs and their transformation products has been investigated for nearly 50 years, but there is a lack of consensus regarding the effects of these environmental contaminants on wild fish populations. The objective of this review is to critically examine these investigations and evaluate publicly available databases for evidence of effects of PCBs in wild fish. Biological activity of PCBs is limited to a small proportion of PCB congeners [e.g., dioxin-like PCBs (DL-PCBs)] and occurs at concentrations that are typically orders of magnitude higher than PCB levels detected in wild fish. Induction of biomarkers consistent with PCB exposure (e.g., induction of cytochrome P450 monooxygenase system) has been evaluated frequently and shown to be induced in fish from some environments, but there does not appear to be consistent reports of damage (i.e., biomarkers of effect) to biomolecules (i.e., oxidative injury) in these fish. Numerous investigations of endocrine system dysfunction or effects on other organ systems have been conducted in wild fish, but collectively there is no consistent evidence of PCB effects on these systems in wild fish. Early life stage toxicity of DL-PCBs does not appear to occur at concentrations reported in wild fish embryos, and results do not support an association between PCBs and decreased survival of early life stages of wild fish. Overall, there appears to be little evidence that PCBs have had any widespread effect on the health or survival of wild fish.

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Henry TB. 2015. Ecotoxicology of polychlorinated biphenyls in fish-a critical review. Critical Reviews in Toxicology 45:643-661.